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Spanish Civil War caves of Asturias in archaeology and memory

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As the Spanish Civil War drew to a close, retreating Republican troops in the northern region of Asturias took refuge in caves in the mountains from the brutal victor's justice of the Francoist forces. In this paper we examine three of these caves in the context of the Civil War experiences of the rural municipality of Santo Adriano, based on a combination of archaeological recording and oral history interviews. The paper focuses on the role of the La Ponte-Ecomuseum, a grassroots heritage organisation that has worked to preserve and communicate the tangible and intangible heritage of the district. The Civil War heritage presents cultural, political and practical challenges for the museum: nonetheless it has succeeded in establishing an ongoing programme for its communication and protection.
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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HERITAGE STUDIES, 2016
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2016.1232658
Spanish Civil War caves of Asturias in archaeology and memory
Jesús Fernández Fernándeza and Gabriel Moshenskab
aFaculty of History, University of Oxford, UK & La Ponte-Ecomuseum, Spain; bUCL Institute of Archaeology, London, UK
ABSTRACT
As the Spanish Civil War drew to a close, retreating Republican troops in
the northern region of Asturias took refuge in caves in the mountains from
the brutal victor’s justice of the Francoist forces. In this paper we examine
three of these caves in the context of the Civil War experiences of the rural
municipality of Santo Adriano, based on a combination of archaeological
recording and oral history interviews. The paper focuses on the role of the
La Ponte-Ecomuseum, a grassroots heritage organisation that has worked
to preserve and communicate the tangible and intangible heritage of the
district. The Civil War heritage presents cultural, political and practical
challenges for the museum: nonetheless it has succeeded in establishing
an ongoing programme for its communication and protection.
Introduction
In this paper we examine the work of a community-based heritage organisation in collecting, archiv-
ing and promoting the marginalised heritage of the Spanish Civil War era. We draw on a dynamic
theoretical framework for the generation and articulation of conict memory narratives based in the
work of Ashplant, Dawson, and Roper (2000) and developed by Moshenska (2010) to examine the role
of small commemorative organisations and the strategies they employ to promote subaltern historical
narratives. rough this theoretical lens we examine a community-based research project that took
place in the municipality of Santo Adriano, a small rural community in the centre of Asturias. e
project employed oral history and archaeological survey to examine three caves in the region that
were used as refuges or operating bases by Republican militiamen at various points during and aer
the Spanish Civil War, and where traces of occupation remain in the form of grati carved into the
limestone cave walls. e research was carried out under the auspices of the La Ponte-Ecomuseum in
Santo Adriano, a community-based heritage organisation. e nal part of the paper examines how
the museum is maintaining the local community heritage of these Civil War caves, and considers its
strategies for the future.
La Ponte-Ecomuseum and the dynamics of memory
La Ponte-Ecomuseum is a community-led initiative by a group of academics, heritage professionals,
amateurs, volunteers, and neighbours (Alonso González and Fernández Fernández 2013). Its aims
© 2016 Jesús Fernández Fernández and Gabriel Moshenska. Published with licence by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
KEYWORDS
Conflict heritage;
ecomuseums; memory;
negative heritage; oral
history
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 22 December 2015
Accepted 1 September 2016
CONTACT Jesús Fernández Fernández arqueoastur@gmail.com
2 J. FERNÁNDEZ FERNÁNDEZ AND G. MOSHE NSKA
are focused on the study, preservation, enhancement and diusion of local cultural heritage in Santo
Adriano (Figures 1 and 2). e ecomuseum has its own infrastructure and its governance is based on
councils of the members organised into working groups for research, education, conservation and
other matters. e ecomuseum aims in particular to highlight and enhance cultural heritage that
has been disregarded or forgotten, and to create opportunities for both sociocultural and economic
development in rural areas. For these reasons the ecomuseum considers itself a knowledge-based
social enterprise, managing heritage resources in order to generate economic activity, development
and innovation from a ‘social base’ (Fernández Fernández, Alonso González, and Navajas Corral
2015). Among its range of community activities, the Ecomuseum frequently organises workshops in
traditional music, bringing together members and neighbours.
e activities of ecomuseums have been largely neglected in studies of community heritage, even
in work focused on participatory working practices (e.g. Atalay 2012; Atalay et al. 2014; Moshenska
and Dhanjal 2012; but see Moyer 2007). Nonetheless, there is a growing number of interdisciplinary
research projects based around ecomuseums (see Kimeev 2008 for an example from Siberia). e
work examined in this paper draws on the core heritage-based activities of the La Ponte-Ecomuseum
including archaeological eldwork, oral history, and the general study and understanding of local
history with and within the local community.
e heritage of the Civil War remains a painful, dicult and divisive topic within Spanish society:
the fear-induced self-censorship of the fascist era gave way to a ‘pact of silence’ in the following decades,
and powerful traces of both endure into the present (Preston 2006; Renshaw 2011). e excavations
of mass graves since the start of the twenty-rst century were in part a younger generations response
to this heavy silence, and the work of the archaeologists and forensic anthropologists continues to
generate political controversy and popular discomfort on local and national scales.
To consider the potential functions of La Ponte-Ecomuseum as a nexus for Civil War heritage dis-
course we need to consider the dynamics of contested memories of conict and the roles of dierent
actors. Scholarship in memory studies has long moved beyond simplistic dichotomies of ‘individual’
and ‘collective’ memory towards a more nuanced understanding of the roles of communities and social
groups in mediating commemorative processes and acting to promote specic narratives (Moshenska
Figure 1.Recording an oral history interview. Source: Jesús Fernández Fernández.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HERITAGE STUDIES 3
2010). Winter and Sivan consider how an individual might engage in memorial processes ‘as a partic-
ipant in a social group constructed for the purposes of commemoration’ (1999, 10), calling collective
remembrance ‘the activity of individuals coming together in public to recall the past’. e question
remains of how we can conceptualise the role of the La Ponte-Ecomuseum in this process.
Ashplant, Dawson, and Roper (2000, 16) describe the dynamics of conict memory as ‘the struggle
of dierent groups to give public articulation to, and hence gain recognition for, certain memories and
the narratives within which they are structured’. ese authors’ conceptualisation of conict memory
oers insights into the role of the Ecomuseum in preserving and promoting the local heritage of the
Spanish Civil War. e model developed by these authors is based on three key components: (1) mem-
ory narratives produced by collective remembrance, the forms in which the past is communicated;
(2) arenas of memory articulation, or the spaces (physical or social) in which social actors promote
specic narratives; and (3) agencies of memory articulation, the groups or movements that promote
or defend their specic memory narratives. As they note, ‘analysing specic instances of war memory
and commemoration in these terms can help to clarify its politics, by specifying which social groups,
Figure 2.Site recording in Cueva’l Veiru. Source: Jesús Fernández Fernández.
4 J. FERNÁNDEZ FERNÁNDEZ AND G. MOSHE NSKA
via what agencies, are the promoters of a particular narrative addressed to which arenas’ (Ashplant,
Dawson, and Roper 2000, 17).
In applying this model to the archaeological study of recent conicts, Moshenska (2010) noted
that archaeological projects can serve as arenas for promoting subaltern memory narratives through
the action of stakeholder organisations, particularly where those projects are made accessible to the
public and/or include oral history work. In the case of the La Ponte-Ecomuseum this is particularly
applicable as the museum serves as both the instigator of the project and as the key community stake-
holder in heritage discourses.
e applicability of the memory articulation model to the La Ponte-Ecomuseum’s work on the
Civil War caves depends on several issues. Firstly, what role does the Ecomuseum play in the creation
of memory narratives around the heritage of the Spanish Civil War? Secondly, what strategies do
they employ to promote these narratives? Finally, in which physical or social spaces are the heritage
narratives projected? Examining the work of the La Ponte-Ecomuseum in these terms oers insights
into the value and signicance of its work on the local heritage of the Spanish Civil War and its wider
function as a stakeholder in community heritage.
Historical background
e Spanish Civil War was an extraordinary episode in Spanish, European and world history, arguably
foreshadowing the Second World War in the European theatre in its political divisions, protagonists,
technologies, strategies and tactics (Alpert 1994; Beevor 2006; Preston 2006). e Civil War began
in July 1936 with a military coup against the recently elected coalition government of the centre-le
Frente Popular or Popular Front. In the years leading up to the coup there had been a gradual move
towards a more socially, economically and religiously liberal society, based on legislation and a new
constitution. ese progressive moves were resisted by the Catholic church, the military and the
wealthy and simultaneously criticised as half-measures by the far-le parties and trade unions, leading
to a wave of strikes, uprisings and political murders in the period leading up to the outbreak of war.
It is impossible to adequately summarise the Spanish Civil War in a few paragraphs, but for the
purposes of this study it is worth giving an outline framework. e Nationalist forces, led from early
in the war by General Francisco Franco, received material and advisory support from Nazi Germany
and fascist Italy, while the Republican forces loyal to the government later received aid from the Soviet
Union and to a lesser extent from Mexico, following the refusal of aid from France, Britain and other
democracies. e Nationalists were able to seize control of the military garrisons and associated
munitions and supplies in many major towns including Oviedo, capital of the Asturian province
(Figure 3). In the early stages of the war the Nationalists controlled the south and west of Spain and
advanced rapidly across the north, including Asturias, as well as beginning the long-running siege of
Madrid. e fall of Madrid in the spring of 1939 led to the nal defeat of the Republicans. During the
war mass-murders of civilians had occurred in areas occupied by both forces: as vigilante violence in
Republican areas with around 48,000 victims and as an organised, openly-proclaimed programme of
extermination and social cleansing in Nationalist-controlled areas with estimated numbers of victims
ranging from 100,000 to over 200,000 (Preston 2006). In the aermath of the Nationalist victory the
killings continued, targeting a range of groups including socialists, communists and anarchists of all
stripes; members of trade unions and opposition political parties; intellectuals; freemasons; atheists;
Protestants and others deemed unwanted in the new Spain (Beevor 2006). e progress and aer-
math of the war as it aected the municipality of Santo Adriano will be discussed in the oral history
section below.
The oral history project
e collection of oral histories that formed the basis for this project was a personal initiative of author
Jesús Fernández, conducted between 2004 and 2011, and aimed primarily at the collection of general
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HERITAGE STUDIES 5
information about local history and the lives of the interviewees in Santo Adriano, an area of approx-
imately 22 square miles with a registered population of approximately 250, and a year-round popula-
tion of roughly half that. Of the narratives collected, ten included signicant amounts of information
about the Spanish Civil War: seven interviews conducted in Villanueva; two in Castañéu, and one in
Sabadía. ree of the interviews were recorded as video, seven as audio only. At the time of writing
only two of these ten interviewees are still alive. e interviews were carried out in the homes of the
interviewees, in public places, and in the elds near to their homes. e archive of recordings is held
by the La Ponte-Ecomuseum in Villanueva.
e interviews took the form of conversations or open interviews, and were not deliberately focused
or directed towards the subject of the Civil War. ere is an enduring and well-attested reluctance to
discuss the Civil War amongst most older people in Spain, based in part on the enduring memorial
legacy of fascism, and what has been termed the ‘pact of silence’ in Spanish society (Renshaw 2011).
e interviews focused on local place-names and local history in general, including folk traditions
and stories. Where the subject of the Civil War was mentioned in the discussion it was raised by the
interviewees, and was only then pursued aer establishing that they were willing to discuss it.
One of the most notable features of the oral histories was the distinction between the historical
timeline of the Civil War in the region and local perceptions of the conict. In this particular case
study area, the majority of the violence occurred aer the ocial end of the war in the area in October
1937, therefore the interviewees associate this date with the beginning, rather than the cessation of
hostilities. Drawing on their recollections the history of the Civil War in the Santo Adriano district
can be divided into three periods.
Stage 1: July 1936 to October 1937
During this period the military front was never closer than 25 km from the municipality of Santo
Adriano, the nearest ghting being the siege of Oviedo. ere is no evidence of political or ideological
killings in the area, and the only casualties reported are young militiamen from the area who fought
on various fronts, some of whom died and their bodies were subsequently returned home for burial.
is is recorded in the municipal records.
Figure 3.Location of the study area. Source: Map, elaborated by Jesús Fernández.
6 J. FERNÁNDEZ FERNÁNDEZ AND G. MOSHE NSKA
During this period the most politically active members of the community launched a socialist
revolution, based on the formation of a local organising committee La Cooperativa. e function of
La Cooperativa was to control the production and distribution of food, clothes, footwear and other
essentials, thereby guaranteeing resources to the poorest in the district. Committees of this kind
devoted to the reorganisation of production were a common feature of Republican Spain, and was
linked in particular to the inuence of the anarchist trade union CNT (Guillamón 2011, Figure 4).
Each family in the community was assigned a quantity of supplies based on the number of children,
sharing equally with class or ideological distinction. e initial aim was to create a physical space for
storing goods, some of them obtained by forcible seizure from the wealthier, although they were ini-
tially given nancial compensation. e early period of La Cooperativa was well received and popular
amongst the majority of the population. However, as the war progressed the militia began to demand
more supplies for troops at the fronts, and the committee took on a war economy with signicantly
fewer resources, and began to requisition goods from even the poorest social groups. Combined with
the end of nancial compensation this saw the popularity of La Cooperativa decline sharply.
Stage 2: October 1937 to November 1938
e second period of the war era in Santo Adriano is remembered as a time of violence and repression.
In the immediate aermath of the fall of the Republican northern fronts in the last days of October
1937 the Nationalist army arrived in the area. In the municipal capital, Villanueva, the ‘conquest’ of the
Republican zone was marked with gestures of celebration by the troops. ese included the ‘artilleros’
who arrived in mid-November of 1937 and specically the ‘Batería-37’ which located its command
centre in the nearby village of Proaza, and which was placed in overall control of Santo Adriano. In the
neighbouring villages such as Villanueva, a more informal base of authority was established, usually
in the homes of families related to the new regime. ese houses functioned as the visible presence of
the new regime and its power structures, and were where interrogations took place, contact with the
Figure 4.Document issued by the Committee of Supplies of Santo Adriano in August 1936, noting the transfer of a weapon from
a neighbour to defend the Committee. The document’s signatory Jose Martinez Martinez was the mayor during the revolutionary
period. He was executed on 8 May 1938 at 28years old, and lies buried in the common grave in the cemetery of Oviedo. He was never
accused of any violent crime, a fact verified in the interviews. Source: Document, Jesús Fernández family.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HERITAGE STUDIES 7
network of local collaborators was maintained, and where the public humiliations of women related
to prominent Republicans and militiamen took place.
is is a stage characterised by the omnipresence of the army and its violence. e repression began
with the arrest of the local committee organisers and the persecution of militiamen who had taken
refuge close to their villages and families. e Nationalist troops exploited the pre-existing tensions
within the community: for example, the claims made by those who had been aected by requisitions
were not addressed by the army: instead they treated the requisitions as an ordinary criminal act
bearing individual responsibility, rather than as a result of the war, which would have placed them
within public liability. is was used both to justify the political persecution of those who carried out
the requisitions and to avoid paying any nancial compensation. e Nationalist army also continued
the requisitions, while still blaming the Republicans for the situation.
All of the interviewees from Villanueva recalled an event during this period: the capture and
murder of a young militiaman named Julio (nicknamed ‘de la Teyerain the neighbourhood of the
village where he lived) in April 1938. Aer his arrest he was brutally beaten and paraded through the
village, with the clear intention of intimidating the population. Aer this particular ‘Via Crucis’ (one
interviewee compared the victim with the gure of Christ, with his long beard and his bloody face) he
was summarily executed without trial in the nearby village of Proaza. He had not committed a violent
crime and the general perception of the population at the time was that it was an injustice, but one to
which no one could react without fear of reprisals.
During this period the persecution of the families of militiamen, especially women, was particularly
notable. Usually the wives or sisters of fugitive militiamen were pressured to betray their locations, and
were subjected to dierent kinds of humiliations. In interviews it was also explained how the daugh-
ters of the socialists who had acted as coordinators of the committee were forced to clean the homes
of families who were collaborating with the new power. While it is known that rapes of Republican
women occurred during this period they are dicult to record, because the majority of interviewees
felt an understandable reluctance to provide information. Only one woman interviewed in the village
of Castañéu described gang-rapes committed by a group of Nationalist soldiers. Of the three known
victims one young woman subsequently committed suicide. is type of victim is oen forgotten when
counting the costs of conicts, and rape during or as a weapon of war was recorded in other parts of
Spain during the Civil War (Preston 2006; Rittner and Roth 2012).
Stage 3: November 1938 to June 1940
During this nal period the regular army occupiers were gradually replaced by other forces such as
the Guardia Civil, a militarised police force. Despite the overall decline in violence several Republican
militia forces remained in operation in the area, albeit in very small numbers. e last death in action
of one of these militiamen occurred in June 1940, marking the end of paramilitary violence in the
Santo Adriano area, although militia groups remained active in Asturias more generally until 1952.
In terms of casualties, the rst stage of the conict saw at least two militiamen from Santo Adriano
killed on the Oviedo front, but no political persecution in the area during this period. However, during
the second and third periods under Nationalist control of the area three people died in prison, seven
were executed and one more died on the battle front, bringing the total casualties recorded from the
interviews alone to thirteen. As such this information is incomplete, but gives a good general indication
of the varying degrees of violence in the community during the dierent periods. To the population of
Santo Adriano the worst violence occurred not during the ‘war’ years but in the repression aerwards,
including rapes and extra-judicial killings.
8 J. FERNÁNDEZ FERNÁNDEZ AND G. MOSHE NSKA
Archaeology of the conict: the caves occupied by militiamen between 1937 and
1940
Since the start of the twenty-rst century the archaeological study of the Spanish Civil War has emerged
as a sub-discipline of Spanish archaeology in its own right. Initially focused on the exhumation and
identication of the victims of fascist massacres buried in mass graves it has grown to incorporate
battleeld archaeology; aviation archaeology; the archaeology of concentration camps; bunkers; and
air raid shelters (e.g. Ferrándiz 2013; González-Ruibal 2008, 2012). Elsewhere in the world the archae-
ology of twentieth century conict has drawn extensively on documentary sources and oral histories
alongside the archaeological record, and this is certainly true in Spain where many of the excavated
mass graves were rst identied through eyewitness or perpetrator testimony. ere are relatively few
archaeological studies of Civil War sites in Asturias: these include a study of trench systems from the
siege of Oviedo (Fanjul Peraza et al. 2014); a study of bullets found in this excavation (Díaz Herrero,
Feito Álvarez, and Fanjul Peraza 2014); and studies of fortied sites from the same siege (Álvarez
Martínez and Requejo Pagés 2008; Álvarez Martínez, Requejo Pagés, and Alonso Rodríguez 2008).
e limestone mountains of Santo Adriano contain numerous caves of various sizes, some of them
easily accessible and others less so: some of the latter served as refuges or operating bases for militiamen
during and aer the war. Following the collapse of the Republican front many militiamen were unable
to return to their homes in areas then under Nationalist control, with many who tried to return facing
reprisals including imprisonment or summary execution. Other caves were occupied at later dates as
operating bases or general refuges. An overview of research on Spanish Civil War caves in another
area of Asturias was presented at a recent conference (see Bondura, Pita, and Fanjul Peraza 2015).
ree caves containing traces of occupation by militiamen were discovered in Santo Adriano during
general surveys of the area focusing primarily on Palaeolithic rock carvings: two of the three were
identied with caves mentioned in the oral histories collected earlier. e three caves, described in
more detail below, were studied through site visits and the grati and rock carvings dating from the
Civil War period were recorded (Figure 5).
Cave 1
e traditional name of the cave is ‘Cueva de los Fugaos’ (cave of the refugees), in reference to the
presence of the militiamen. It is located on the south face of the Sierra de los Collaos mountain with
the entrance located ten metres up a vertical limestone wall, making access to the cave dicult and
improving its defensive position. e cave has a at oor making it relatively easy for occupants: from
the entrance it is possible to observe a number of dierent roads and traditional paths between the
villages. Around the cave are the remains of trenches dug to protect the entrance, and inside the team
discovered the remains of cans and household goods as well as fragments of newspapers. is cave
is where ‘Modesto, the last of the militiamen of Santo Adriano committed suicide in June 1940. One
interviewee recalled how the inaccessible cave was used by the militiamen:
Por aquél espeñadeiru arriba a la cueva, ellos tenían una escalera de palos de avellano … que plegaba y tirabanla
desde arriba … una vez todos adentro, pues tiraban por ella p’arriba, plegabanla.
In the cli there was a cave, and they had a ladder made of sticks of hazel which could be folded and lied up
from above. Once all were inside the cave, they would pull up the ladder.
Inside the cave itself, another interviewee stated that:
Había somieres, y allí había unas calamilleras … tenían como una corripina y allí era la cocina.Había libros,
ferramientas, hachos.
ere were mattresses, and there was a chain to hang pots on. ey had as small enclosed space and there was
a kitchen. ere were books, tools, axes.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HERITAGE STUDIES 9
Cave 2
We do not know the traditional name of this cave located in the south face of the Sierra de los Collaos.
It is very small and the entrance is dicult to locate. From the small entrance it is possible to gain
access to a secondary tunnel that connects with a small open area (about two metres long and one
metres wide) with a at oor. is space was adapted by the militiaman to create an adequate space
to live and sleep. e remains of hearths can still be seen in the cave, and from the entrance the main
road of the Trubia Valley is visible, as well as other traditional paths and roads. At the entrance of the
cave there is an inscription on the wall (Figure 6), which reads
La República
La libertad
La cultura
La enseñanza
[e Republic
Freedom
Culture
Education]
Figure 5.Archaeological sites cited in the text. 1. Cueva de los Fugaos. 2. Cueva con grati. 3. Cueva’l Veiru. Adapted from Mapa
Topográfico Nacional de España (IGN) 1:25,000 Hoja 52-2. Source: Map, elaborated by Jesús Fernández.
10 J. FERNÁNDEZ FERNÁNDEZ AND G. MOSHE NSKA
Cave 3
El Veiru cave is on the north side of the Sierra de los Collaos. Its entrance is very narrow and dicult
to locate, although not too far from an old parish road that passes through the village of Castañéu. e
cave is narrow (no more than a metre and a half wide) and about een metres long. It is extremely
damp, making it unpleasant for long-term habitation, but its value lay in its strategic position with a
good view of the main road that connected Castañéu with the Trubia Valley, as well as its invisibility
as the entrance is hidden behind vegetation. One interviewee recalled:
En una cueva que hay en Valle del Covón … encima, entras así por un sitiu así redondu que casi nun lu ves …
encima del furacu que entra pa la cueva … pasando así por riba, vi yo al mi perro mirar así p’allí … Cuando yo
llegué allí había 11 hombres mirando pa la Cuesta’l Saltu. Al volver ya no estaban allí, ya se metieran pa’l furacu
… Por la Peña Sabadía hubo muchos fugaos.
In a cave in the Valle del Covón … from above, you can enter through a small hollow. I saw my dog looking at
the spot. When I got there there were 11 men looking for la Cuesta’l Salto. When I returned they were no longer
there, and they had gone into the cave … In the Peña Sabadia there were many refugees.
Various grati were recorded in this cave. e rst depicts the ag of the Spanish Section of the
International Communist Party, showing the militia group’s political aliation (Figure 7). e inter-
views revealed that the Communists were only a small group in Villanueva. e individuals who
established the Cooperative were socialists linked with the UGT trade union and the Spanish Socialist
Party the PSOE. However the popularity and membership of the Communist Party grew amongst
troops on the battle fronts, with membership rising from a pre-war 80,000 to more than 300,000 by
October 1937 (Hernández Sánchez 2010, 356).
e second carving consists of the initials of the militiamen resident in the cave, and information
about the dates of entry and departure from the cave:
Entra 10/21/1937 (Arrived 21/10/1937)
Sale (Departed) (Figure 8)
Figure 6.Grati with text highlighted. Source: Jesús Fernández Fernández.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HERITAGE STUDIES 11
On 23 October 1937 the militiamen received orders from the commanders of the Popular Front to
leave the line in the Puerto Ventana (the last Republican front in the area), and they ed in all direc-
tions. Based on the dates in the cave the militia fugitives in El Veiru probably came from other fronts
that would have been demobilised earlier. As the departure date is not specied it is possible that it
was gradual.
Figure 7.Grati in Cueva’l Veiru; the flag of the Spanish Communist Party. Source: Jesús Fernández Fernández.
Figure 8.Grati in Cueva’l Veiru; the initials of militiamen and date of entry and exit. Source: Jesús Fernández Fernández.
12 J. FERNÁNDEZ FERNÁNDEZ AND G. MOSHE NSKA
From the interviews we know that the militia fugitives in El Veiru were successfully reintegrated into
their communities without suering violent or legal repercussions, probably during the amnesties of
1938 which were granted by the new State in cases where there had been no violent crime. Although
they were many cases in which the amnesties were not respected, this does not appear to have been
the case here. is ‘happy ending’ led to the appearance of a popular folk song in the community at
the time, recounting anecdotes of this militia group. e song was recorded through two dierent
interviews in the nearby villages of Castañéu and Perlavia. e dierent versions of the song showed
a high degree of similarity. e melody was also recorded in one of the interviews.
Discussion: preserving and presenting the heritage of the militia caves
e exhumation of mass graves has done much to break the national ‘Pact of Silence’ around the events
of the Civil War period in Spain (Ferrándiz 2013). On a local level the process is more complicated:
in some cases, fragments of material and intangible heritage were quietly preserved; in others there
remains an individual and collective reluctance to break the silence and confront dicult, painful
and divisive narratives. In these contexts, the work of the La Ponte-Ecomuseum in recording the oral
histories and archaeological traces of conict in the Santo Adriano district oer an example of how
they can be preserved and promoted for current and future generations.
e Ecomuseum is committed to innovation in the dissemination of local history and archaeology,
and to this end established a series of activities to share and preserve the data collected during the
interviews and the surveys of the caves. In June 2013 they hosted a public event to present the initial
ndings of the oral historical and archaeological work. In April 2014 ey held a conference on cultural
heritage, including a special performance of the song of the Republican militia collected during the
interviews (Figure 9). e interpretation of the music and lyrics was carried out by pupils from the
Ecomuseum music school, led by Asturian musician Xuacu Amieva, best known for his participation
in the award-winning album Santiago with Irish folk group e Chieains (Figure 10). e presenta-
tion served as a way to introduce the story of the song and its main characters. e music was used
as a method by which to disseminate local history to dierent groups: music students, conference
participants, and local people who may not be specialists or even interested in history.
Perhaps the most signicant outcome of the research is that based on the Ecomuseum’s archaeo-
logical and heritage management work the third cave site, El Veiru, has been added to the Asturian
governments register of cultural heritage sites relating to the Spanish Civil War. is provides the site
with legal protection as well as recognition of its heritage value on a regional level.
Figure 9.Melody of the Militia Song recovered during interviews. Translation of the lyrics: ‘We were nine months, saved in the Veiru
Cave, the first one was Luciano, the second was Oliverio, the third one was Avelino, and in the garret el Fardelu’. Source: Partiture,
elaborated by Jesús Fernández.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HERITAGE STUDIES 13
Future plans for the Civil War heritage of the district are grounded in an appreciation of the
Ecomuseum’s role as creators and curators of memory narratives. ese plans include:
Continuing oral history research as salvage work: the Civil War is at the very edge of living
memory in the area as well as nationally and internationally, a crucial period for collecting the
last remaining traces.
Developing a distinctively local history of the Civil War, drawing on the oral histories as well as
existing documentary histories and recent and ongoing archaeological research.
Forging stronger links between the material traces of conict in the area and the intangible
heritage of folklore and memory.
Developing Civil War heritage trails of these sites in the villages of Villanueva and Castañéu,
based on guides and information panels: the Ecomuseum currently runs tours and trails on a
variety of themes including Palaeolithic archaeology, medieval history and architecture, and the
local iron mining industry.
While the caves themselves are inaccessible to visitors (this was, of course, why they were used in
the rst place) there are a number of sites in the district that can be visited and interpreted as Civil
War heritage. ese include military remains such as bunkers, the sites of buildings burned by militia
forces, the buildings used by La Cooperativa as storage and distribution sites, and sites of imprison-
ment, public humiliation and execution. By building Civil War heritage activities and resources into
its existing programme of diverse archaeological and historical tours the Ecomuseum hopes to begin
to legitimise and normalise the discourses around the conict in the local community, and to promote
a local heritage narrative alongside and, where necessary, in opposition to national narratives.
is paper aimed to examine the distinctive contribution of La Ponte-Ecomuseum to the manage-
ment of Spanish Civil War heritage in the Santo Adriano district of Asturias. Drawing on an established
framework for examining the dynamics of conict memory we raised a set of questions that can now be
Figure 10.The Asturian musician, Xuacu Amieva (second on the right) playing the ‘militia song’ with pupils of the ecomuseum music
school. Source: Jesús Fernández Fernández.
14 J. FERNÁNDEZ FERNÁNDEZ AND G. MOSHE NSKA
addressed concerning the role of the Ecomuseum in the creation and promotion of heritage narratives
around the Civil War in Santo Adriano. In the rst instance, the oral history project and archaeological
survey work outlined in the body of the paper demonstrate the Ecomuseum’s commitment to craing
narratives of memory and heritage that directly challenge the enduring silence around the Civil War
period in much of contemporary Spanish culture and society. A notable example of this is the recording
of accounts of rape by Nationalist soldiers in the district, which had hitherto remained unmentioned
due in part to shame and silence within families as well as communities. Having worked to generate
these memory narratives the Ecomuseum has worked to actively promote them in a number of dif-
ferent arenas. is includes lobbying for the inclusion of the cave sites in ocial heritage listings and
an active programme of community education, with a series of future plans for further development
outlined above. e aims and achievements described are distinctly local, with the Ecomuseum taking
on the role of community heritage stakeholder; nonetheless they t clearly within the framework of
memory dynamics outlined by Ashplant, Dawson and Roper and developed within an archaeological
framework by Moshenska. e diversity of this work and the clear focus on preserving and commu-
nicating tangible and intangible heritage of the Spanish Civil War oers a valuable case study in the
role of grassroots heritage organisations in dealing with dicult pasts within local communities.
Acknowledgements
To the elderly people of Santo Adriano who maintain our memory, to the TERA archaeology company that collabo-
rated in the archaeological eldwork, and to the students and professor of the ecomuseum traditional music school
for playing the song.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
Funding
is work was supported by Ficyt: postdfoctoral programme Marie Curie-Cofund-“Clarín” of the Principality of Asturias
[ACA1 4-08].
Notes on contributors
Jesús Fernández Fernández received his MPhil and PhD from the University of Oviedo (Spain). His MPhil dissertation
focused on the application of Geographical Information Systems in landscape archaeology and his PhD on landscape
archaeology and territorial organisation in Asturias (northern Spain) between Late Antiquity and the central Middle
Ages. He is a social entrepreneur and director of an archaeological-museological community project in Asturias (Spain):
La Ponte-Ecomuseum (2012–present). From 2015–16, he was a postdoctoral researcher (Marie Curie Co-Fund) at
Oxford University working on cultural landscapes and social innovation in cultural heritage.
Gabriel Moshenska is a senior lecturer in Public Archaeology at UCL Institute of Archaeology, working across a number
of elds including the archaeology and heritage of modern conict, the intellectual history of archaeology and the public
understanding of the past. Since 2015, he and his co-author have collaborated on a multi-period landscape archaeology
project in Asturias looking at land use and environmental change.
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